- Paperback: 302 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press (December 22, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691059535
- ISBN-13: 978-0691059532
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,177,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Making Peace with the 60s
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For Burner, "the history of the 1960s is the history of the breaking apart of the liberal mentality," particularly with reference to the two intersecting mass actions of the decade, the civil rights and anti-war movements. To understand that breakup, Burner "examines forces of the era that might have been allies but succeeded in becoming enemies: a civil rights movement that severed into integrationist and black-separatist; a social left and a mainline liberalism that lost a common vocabulary even for arguing with each other; an anti-war activism that divided between advocates of peace and advocates of totalitarian Hanoi."
Burner's strength is his unflinching willingness to draw the continuities in such developments, even as it pains him to do so. Where more reverential histories try to parse out the bad from the good, Burner shows how the two were intimately, if not always necessarily, related. With considerable success, he charts how a civil rights movement stressing the content of character melded into the radical chic of black separatism and armed insurrection and how liberals prosecuted a "progressive" war on poverty at home while simultaneously waging a "reactionary" war in Vietnam.
. . . Burner's own left-liberalism allows for--perhaps creates--blind spots. Throughout Making Peace with the 60s, he draws no distinction between public and private spheres and consistently conflates government action with society as a whole. In an epilogue, he romanticizes the New Deal as a time of national purpose, "a sense of a wider community," and laments the lack of such national coherence now. While such tics are bothersome, they make the book all the more convincing. Even as Burner laments the demise of big government liberalism, Making Peace with the 60s painstakingly details where and why things went wrong. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Burner, a professor of history at SUNY, Stonybrook, offers a new look at the impact of the tumultuous '60s. Burner's masterful retelling of the civil rights movement rekindles the excitement of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and others who risked so much. Following this, however, the inclusiveness of the movement was undermined by black separatists in Nation of Islam and SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). "The black power ethos," he says, "strives to encrust black Americans into a single mass, and whites into another." The lasting contribution of the Republicans, who followed the Democrats into power, was a skewing of the traditional work ethic into "Don't tax my tax dollars to relieve my neighbor's poverty." With clearheaded expertise, Burner also pieces together the cultural mosaic of the '60s. Although his section on John Kennedy recycles much of the now familiar foibles and high-minded fortunes of JFK's White House, his treatment of writers gives real credence to the idea of literature leading to and shaping the era. Jack Kerouac's On the Road ("a road map for the sixties"), Gary Synder's Zen input of righting the relationship of self to the world, and other intellectual artifacts helped create a movement counter to Establishment materialism. Burner offers a keen-sighted, comprehensive analysis of a fascinating era that produced the Flower Children and Richard Nixon. Readers searching for an admirable explanation of the cross-connections in this mythic decade can find them here.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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This book is partly a criticism of the New Left and the hippies and partly a general explanation of what happened politically. Most of the facts and observations are not terribly insightful or ameliorative - at least for me. The CIA attempted to assassinate Castro eight times according to a Senate investigation. (p99)
After the triumph of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act 1965, black militants became more pronounced in the late 60s following the violence of the anti-war movement. He writes, "Black power, then, was a thrashing about for some progress beyond that achieved by rights marches and new laws. But black power had little of lasting value to offer tentative to integrated prosperity and opportunity." (p76)
The counterculture was spontaneous and undefined. He writes, "Beyond its antecedents among the Beats, the emergence of the counterculture has no single satisfactory explanation. No one planned it, no organization mastered and directed it, and few would remain in it for years to keep it going. It had no canonical texts of its own: it neither acknowledged nor had the patience for canons. Hippies believed that some new fact was on the way. The counterculture, like the political left, lived in expectation of its coming." (p128)
But the political left was active in the universities. He writes, "Academia is supposed to live by civilized discourse... Still, an aloof academic style that appeared to deny the connection between discussion of a moral issue and acting on it could perplex a student who, for example, innocently thought that a pointless war ought to be stopped right now, before anyone else got killed. The situation that arose in the sixties, then, could not help but foster mutual misunderstanding and rage among politically active students, genteel professors, and bewildered administrators." (p135)
As for those students who would later become 'tenured radicals' he claims that PC in the 90s is the political equivalent of philistinism in the arts. (p165)
According to the author, there was something terribly wrong with the Left of the sixties, "...the left of the sixties was unwilling to define a social-democratic alternative to the welfare state was one of the worst failures of the period, as was the inability of liberalism to make a political success of the War on Poverty. The other great failure of the time, the conflict in Vietnam, is examined as another instance of liberal thinking and of the nature of the antiwar movement." (p11)
So his answer is some sort of return to the `FDR liberalism'. He writes, "However wounded and unsure of itself liberalism may have emerged from the sixties, its New Deal past now freed of some of its more recent fashions may someday regain a confident voice." (p12) and "Possibly in a better time the ideals of the New Deal can enjoy a return, and the American vision of a working commonwealth can once again enter politics." (p224)
I had trouble getting through this book even as I'd like to make peace with the 60s. He is on target to suggest that somehow the 60s liberalism destroyed some of liberalism's finer aspects. But there is so much more to the twists and turns of the sixties than what he presents. Though this book is filled with a great many facts and observations to chew on, I don't think they are assimilated and presented well. But I do appreciate the premise of a 'thumbs down' on the 60s from a liberal point of view. A noble effort.
1. America Divided: the civil war of the 1960s, Isserman & Kazin, 2000 [clear and unbiased]
2. How We Got Here, David Frum, 2000 [A conservative perspective]
3. Bobos in Paradise, David Brooks, 2000 [on upper-middle class culture]
4. Following Our Bliss, Don Lattin, 2003 [on religion and spirituality]
5. Decade of Nightmares: the end of the Sixties and the Making of Eighties America, Phillip Jenkins, 2006
6. The Long Sixties: From 1960 to Barack Obama, Tom Hayden, 2009